Sunday, November 9, 2008
La Jetee (1962) A Film by Chris Marker
Told entirely with still photography, unorthodox French filmmaker Chris Marker's 28 minute La Jetee is a chilling evocation of a postwar Paris where radiation endangers the surface of the city, creating an underground laboratory of survival experiments. The remaining humans look into time travel in hopes of salvaging the food and supplies that the past contained. One man is put to the test specifically because of the strong mental image of a woman that he possesses. Admittedly somewhat of a preface to Terry Gilliam's 1995 film Twelve Monkeys, La Jetee makes for an index of great black and white lo-fi photography. It's also a substantially enigmatic work that has left me puzzled through even my second viewing.
Our tragic hero embarks on a quest through his romantic memory bank, visiting the home of his youth, a museum of his youth, and the diversions he enjoyed with the curious girl. In the end, he is forced to decide on a life in the past or in the future, one of which has already offered humanity's solution. He opts to search for the woman on the pier (la jetee), the image that has stained his mind for so long. With a droning voice-over, fascinating sound design that includes incomprehensible whispers, heartbeats, and bird chirps, and an occasional musical score, La Jetee is just as much a story for the ears as it is for the eyes and mind. Marker once said his work was to "question images", so perhaps the shadowy characters who test the man are simply brainwashing him, resulting in a labyrinth of existential continuum. Whatever the message is, there's no doubt that it's fun to be brainwashed by Chris Marker.